Current Affairs Speculation about this year’s awarding of state honours stirs controversy
Traditionally on Czechoslovak Independence Day, October 28, the Czech president hands out state honours to war veterans, human rights activists and distinguished personalities. Although this year’s list of recipients has not yet been officially released some names leaked to the press have already caused a stir.
Although Prague Castle remains tight-lipped on this year’s recipients of high state distinctions some of the candidates likely to be awarded by President Miloš Zeman have aroused plenty of controversy.
For the first time in the country’s modern history, the Confederation of Political Prisoners announced that it would not nominate any of its members for the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, an award given for outstanding contributions to the development of democracy, humanity and human rights. The overarchingr reason seems to be their strong disapproval of President Miloš Zeman.
The confederation’s chairman, Leo Žídek, said that his colleagues are unhappy with Mr. Zeman’s presence at the castle, and believes he was too close to the former regime.
“It has to do with his communist past, with his opinions which are not completely anti-Communist. And there is actually a possibility that he will be helping the left with his actions. These considerations have led us to the conclusion that we will not nominate anyone this year.”
There has also been speculation that close colleagues and confidants of President Zeman from the time when he was the prime minister of the country have been slated to receive awards. Particularly, the name František Čuba has aroused the ire of many. From 1963 to 1990, Mr. Čuba headed the collective farm in the town of Slušovice, which successfully adopted a more capitalist-like economic model and was subsequently dubbed “the miracle of socialism”. There are many who believe this may have involved shady deals.
The son of former political prisoner and émigré Přemysl Janýr, who was given the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk posthumously by President Václav Havel, said that his family will return the state distinction if Mr. Čuba receives the same honor next week.
Speaking by phone from Austria, Přemysl Janýr’s son Phillip said that the biggest problem with Mr. Čuba’s past, which he apparently discussed a number times with his father, is the suspicion of foul play during the sell-off of the Slušovice farm after 1989. The running of the ‘capitalist’ collective farm is also not necessarily worthy of the honor either, says Mr. Janýr:
“To equalize such a project to the endeavour to fight against the totalitarian regime leads me to the conclusion that my family should return the honor awarded by Václav Havel in 1999. I will keep trying to ask other people who have been awarded the same honor whether they would like to join us and return theirs as well.”
Names of other possible recipients from the ranks of artists and scientist have, unsurprisingly, provoked little ire from the public. Those include actor, singer a writer Jiří Suchý, surgeon Pavel Pafko, philosopher Erazim Kohák, and the founder of the Jazz Section Karel Srp. Prague Castle has so far refused to respond to any of the criticism or confirm any names. Who will actually receive the state honors will most likely be revealed at the ceremony on Monday.